Atlantic Indigenous Economic Development Integrated Research Program


The Atlantic Indigenous Economic Development Integrated Research Program (AIEDIRP) is a unique research program formed in 2007 through partnerships between the member communities of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat, the Inuit of Labrador,15 Atlantic universities, and 3 government funders.

The main purpose of the AIEDIRP is to work with Aboriginal communities to improve the knowledge base concerning Atlantic Aboriginal economic development in order to improve the lives of Aboriginal people in the region.

To enhance strategic planning and research initiatives, the AIEDIRP is guided by a Steering Committee and a Research Subcommittee, both providing direction and advice throughout all research processes. Both committees are comprised of Aboriginal leaders, university representatives, and federal and provincial government funding partners.

In 2021, Atlantic region university partners will renew a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the AIEDIRP/APCFNC. This document sets out a common framework around issues such as overhead costs, protection for graduate students, and ownership of research. By signing the MOU, the universities agree that the AIEDIRP will not be charged university overhead administrative fees for projects the universities collaborate on.


1.  Fund and Facilitate Research on Aboriginal Economic Development

The AIEDIRP builds bridges between post-secondary institutions and Atlantic Aboriginal communities; and provides ongoing support to Aboriginal communities and to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from inception through implementation of the research. All research conducted is community-based participatory action research, linking the needs of Aboriginal communities with post-secondary resources in order to promote and enhance community economic development.

Main areas of research:

  • Sector-Focused
  • Employment and Education
  • Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Aboriginal Knowledge, Languages and Cultures
  • Measuring Aboriginal Economic Development Success

2.  Build Research Capacity

Research capacity is built through the collaborative relationships the AIEDIRP cultivates between Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers. Research capacity is also built through the hiring and training of Aboriginal researchers, associates, and assistants; and for non-Aboriginal researchers through the knowledge and experience gained by working with Aboriginal  communities.

3.  Share Knowledge on Aboriginal Economic Development

Workshops and conferences are conducted to bring people together from academic and community settings to share knowledge and build relationships. These workshops and conferences focus on best practices, the research needs of communities, and knowledge dissemination.

The Atlantic Aboriginal Economic Development Integrated Research Program university partners include:

  • Acadia University
  • Cape Breton University
  • Dalhousie University
  • Mount Allison University
  • Memorial University
  • Mount St. Vincent University
  • Saint Mary’s University
  • St. Francis Xavier University
  • St. Thomas University
  • University of New Brunswick
  • Université de Moncton
  • University of PEI
  • Atlantic School of Theology
  • University of King’s College
  • Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.



Michelle Francis-Denny | Economic | APCFNCMichelle Francis-Denny
Director, AIEDIRP

The new director of AIEDIRP is Michelle Francis-Denny, of Pictou Landing (Piktuk) First Nation. Michelle brings more than 20 years of community-based professional experience to the APC team, as a former Native Employment Officer, Economic Development Administrator for CMM, Boat Harbour Project Liaison Manager and most recently spent some time in the corporate world as a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager with Sobeys.

Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Community Studies from Cape Breton University and is recently a Master of Business Administration (MBA) candidate in Indigenous Business Leadership with Simon Fraser University. Michelle considers herself to be a lifelong learner and has embraced many professional learning opportunities throughout her career including a Diploma in Leadership Development, at the Coady International Institute, a master’s certificate in Project Management through Saint Mary’s University and is certified through CANDO as a technician level Aboriginal Economic Developer (TAED).

Michelle is passionate about community capacity building and elevating opportunities that support economic well-being within Indigenous communities and economies. She also has a keen interest in creating spaces and advocating for equitable and inclusive dialogue when it comes relationship building and dismantling colonial systems to help pave the way for economic prosperity. Above all, Michelle expresses sincere gratitude the Native Economic Development and Employment & Training networks she has had the pleasure to work with and learn from throughout her career, She is looking forward to engaging and re-connecting with communities throughout the Atlantic this new role.
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